Guests: Bruce Johanson, Carl Cosaert and Zdravko Stefanovic
The lesson this week raises a subject that is often the one people are most concerned about when dealing with the Holy Spirit. The concern arises from Jesus’ words found in Mark 3:28, 29. In this passage, Jesus indicated that all manner of sins can be forgiven men, but not the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Of particular impact are the words of verse 29: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Given that Jesus is God come to earth, and that he came expressly to save human beings, the idea that there is a sin that can never be forgiven is astonishing. Because of the central role the Holy Spirit plays in salvation, a sin against the Spirit must be considered egregious. Surely such a sin would result in eternal loss for the person guilty of it.
A good place to begin discussion of this issue is to note that these words of Jesus came in response to a statement by certain Pharisees who, after witnessing a miracle in which Jesus healed someone, stated that he did his miracles by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils. (Matthew 12:24). This statement was made in the face of incontrovertible evidence of Christ’s divine power.
Arguably, the miracles witnessed could have resulted in the recognition by those watching that Jesus was no mere human. They could have testified to Jesus divinity. Refusal to recognize that put the “certain Pharisees” in a position where they had to find an explanation for Jesus actions other than a divine one. Since they closed their minds to the workings of God, they had little choice but to attribute Jesus’ actions to the opposite supernatural power, that of Satan.
It is this circumstance that brought about Jesus words of warning. It is, apparently, possible for one to so resist the workings and promptings of the Holy Spirit that one becomes impervious to those promptings. Then, no matter how hard the Spirit works, the person remains unmoved and unaffected. This process is sometimes called the “hardening of the heart.” It is quite possible the condition to which Paul referred in I Timothy 4:2 where he spoke of certain consciences being “seared with a hot iron.”
Thought the words are not used in Scripture, this persistent resistance toward the Holy Spirit is often called the “unpardonable sin.” It is safe to say this sin may e called unpardonable not because of the Holy Spirit’s unwillingness to forgive it, but because the person resisting ends up being unwilling to come to terms with God. The persistent rejection of God and of the promptings of the Holy Spirit activate a downward spiral in the life of a person that leads to the suppression of truth. The persistent suppression of truth leads to ignorance, and finally, idolatry where people worship as gods the things they have made with their own hands (Romans 1). The spiritual senses become numb and unresponsive. It is this dynamic that makes a person unwilling to come to God in repentance. And failure to do so leads to ultimate destruction.
There are quite a few people who worry about committing the unpardonable sin. They are afraid that by resisting the Spirit they have now gone to far. It is safe to say that persons who worry about committing the unpardonable sin have not yet committed it. If they had, they would have no sense of worry about it as their consciences would be numb to it.